Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Distractions of the day

Two different cool (but unrelated) things from my day:

1. This evening I went to a practice for a band formed for the fundraiser auction we have each year. (This year I'm not Vanna.) Historians on guitars, mandolin, bongos, harp and flute playing Fleetwood Mac with lyrics altered to be about grad school. And it was ridiculously good, and kind of folky. (They have to raise a certain amount for us to play!)

2. My copy of The Blythes are Quoted arrived today! Here's my initial reaction to the book: I've only scanned over it quickly, but it looks like most of the short stories are the same as in 1974's The Road to Yesterday (with one exception, which had appeared in a slightly different form in Among the Shadows), but with the addition of poems attributed to either Anne or to her son Walter, and some framing dialogue between the Blythes. A lot of the "adultery, illegitimacy, despair, misogyny, murder, revenge, bitterness, hatred, aging, and death," which the editor thinks will shock L. M. Montgomery's regular fans, occurs in short stories that were already pretty widely in circulation. Like, I read these stories when I was a teenager and they weren't really that far off from her novels from the later 1920s and the 1930s. Instead of all that sensationalism (which is mostly targeted at selling the book to people who normally think of LMM as too cheerful or something), I'm more interested in the poetry attributed to Walter and the aftermath of World War I: you really see her backtracking from the idealism about the First World War that you see in Rilla of Ingleside. Between that and her clear ambivalence about the beginning of the Second World War: this is really interesting. (In fact, this ambivalence is clearest in a poem and discussion about the war that LMM herself had cut out but kept for posterity, which the editor decided to include anyway.)

So: it's worth it, and looks really good (and is much better in this original form than in The Road To Yesterday), but Benjamin Lefebvre really underestimates her fans by playing up the "shocking" elements.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Hooray that google alerts led me to the first intelligent discussion about this book. I hope for more! Let me say, I don't think "shocking" is far off. Although, like you, I am familiar with these stories for the most part in other contexts, I think that the work takes on a darker tone in its assemblage. I found myself realizing how shocking the text really is as the stories and their content pile up on one another -- something you may find as part of the experience of reading it when you finally do. It's cumulative. Additionally, adult readers now also have to read this text in the context of the author's death, something I don't think anyone can escape. With all that in mind, as you read it the book does become quite shocking, especially when consider it in contrast with books like "Kilmeny of the Orchard." A more important criticism, which has nothing to do with the editor, is the way that Anne and Gilbert seem to invade the text -- to the point of being annoying. Or was Montgomery doing that on purpose, to show us how much her Anne legacy sometimes annoyed her? It's a deconstruction of her life's work in a way. What do you think?